The 90% Rule in Prospecting
Ah, human nature. There are things in life that are just predictable: The odds of a dropped piece of buttered toast landing face down. The chances of the driver you just screamed at for cutting you off being your next appointment. And the lack of follow-up by salespeople. It’s as certain as certain can be. Every day, the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, and every day salespeople begin a prospecting process but take it no further than that first attempt. Part of the reason is laziness. Part of it is an inability to finish what one has started. And part of it is just making stupid assumptions. All in all, it’s human nature.
The room was full. Every chair was occupied by someone associated with the graphic arts. There were managers and presidents. There were salespeople, both inside and outside reps. There were vendors. The presenter was speaking on a subject related to selling and his scatterbrain got a bit off topic when it sent the following question to his lips:
“Salespeople in the room: What is the worst selling day of the week?” The answer came back immediately and repeatedly, almost in unison: “Friday!” To save time, the presenter answered his next question shortly after asking it: “And why is that? It’s the one where no decision-maker wants to hear from a sales rep. They have their heads in other projects or perhaps they are thinking ahead to the beach or the slopes. It’s the end of the week and they are trying to wrap things up.
“They can’t be bothered with a pesky caller, so why bother trying at all? They’re not going to pick up anyway, right? Oh, and while I’m at it, what’s the second worst day of the week?” “Monday!” comes the response.
There is a pregnant pause as the presenter walks around the stage, seemingly thinking about his next statement but intentionally letting those questions sink in before throwing out another question: “Owners and managers in the room: What is the quietest phone day of the week?” This answer, too, comes back immediately, repeatedly, and thunderously: “Friday!”
Making a Point
Feeling no need to state the obvious, the presenter strikes a pose that consists of raised eyebrows and open palms as if to say, “do you see my point?” But there’s more meat on this bone …
“If you believe Friday is the worst selling day of the week, and if you buy into the thinking that Monday — a day that no one wants to hear from a sales rep because they’re just getting their week started — is right behind it, you’ve just blown and wasted 40% of the work week.”
He lets that statement, too, sink in as owners and managers smirk knowingly and salespeople deal with the shock of a core belief being challenged.
The intended takeaway is this: Your competition believes Friday to be a bad selling day. This presents an opportunity for you to be the lone sales rep making a call. By fending off a predictable trait created by our DNA, you dramatically increase your chances of hitting the jackpot and hearing the one word every prospecting sales rep wants to hear: “Hello?”
All About Human Nature
But assumptions are not the only sales-killing aspect of human nature. Another is so predictable it makes the certainty of death and taxes look like options. Back to our presenter …
“Another question for you owners and managers in the room: What percentage of the time when an outside sales rep calls you and leaves a first-time prospecting voicemail message do you never hear from that rep again?”
Having asked this question dozens of times, the presenter already knows what’s coming and this audience didn’t disappoint when they said, “90% or higher.” Think about that for a second. Nine out of 10 times, your competition — and perhaps you — calls on a prospect and never makes another attempt. Seeing that statement in writing, it seems impossible. How could it be that salespeople start the pursuit of new business but never get any further than one voicemail message? The answer gets back to human nature.
Sales can be cyclical. It seems things go from crazy busy to quiet, and back to crazy busy. As such, a sales rep can go from talking herself out of any new business activity because she is, “Way too busy to do anything but handle her current workload,” to picking up the phone and making a few calls because, “Everything shipped and, OMG, I’ve got nothing in the pipeline.”
So, a list of prospects is dusted off and the act of dialing for dollars begins. She has every intention of making follow-up calls, sending emails, and being persistent. But soon after that first round of nothing-but-voicemails, something pops up, and in true Whack-A-Mole fashion, she runs toward that customer request, RFQ, or delivery issue, and a couple of days pass. Then, a week. Then two, and now she feels as though she can’t follow-up on those initial calls for fear she’ll come across as, ironically, inconsistent. So, into the trash those leads go and the process begins anew.
But let’s get back to that 90% factoid for a second and see the opportunity it presents.
One of the more challenging aspects of sales is to differentiate. Your presses are beige and they use electricity. They are identical to your competition. You both make ink and toner magically adhere to a substrate. You claim the difference is you. You tell prospects your customer service is superior to theirs.
Actions Speak Loudest
The biggest problem with that argument is the fact that they have no proof. The only way they can find out is if they become a customer. But what if you could demonstrate that customer service in the form of persistency? That’s where the 90% rule comes in. Let’s do some math …
Nine out of 10 first-time calls go without follow-up. So, if a sales rep makes a second call, she is in the top 10% of her class. Making a third call, and again applying the 90% rule, she jumps to the top 1%. She has now done something that 99 out of 100 other salespeople have failed to do. She is demonstrating that “I’m the difference” argument.
Assertive? Most definitely. Aggressive? Depends on what part of the country she is in. Obnoxious? Nowhere. Does it differentiate? Absolutely!
Just imagine that third voicemail message: “Good morning. My name is Allison and I am calling from FarkaBerry Printing. You’ve now heard from me three times. How many salespeople call you three times? This is how badly I want to connect with you. Can you imagine how hard I would work for you once you become a client of mine?”
Your diligence will be rewarded. That, too, is human nature.
Bill Farquharson is a respected industry expert and highly sought after speaker known for his energetic and entertaining presentations. Bill engages his audiences with wit and wisdom earned as a 40-year print sales veteran while teaching new ideas for solving classic sales challenges. Email him at email@example.com or call (781) 934-7036. Bill’s two books, The 25 Best Print Sales Tips Ever and Who’s Making Money at Digital/Inkjet Printing…and How? as well as information on his new subscription-based website, The Sales Vault, are available at salesvault.pro.